It’s time to rethink the E word: evidence.

To some, the phrase "evidence-based philanthropy" offers the promise of long-overdue rigor. If the first principle of philanthropy and social impact is to do good, then evidence-based philanthropy ensures that we honor its corollary: Do no harm.

To others, "evidence-based philanthropy" represents all that is going wrong with philanthropy and social innovation—the rise of the ivory-tower theorists and technocrats whose logic models and fixation with metrics blind them to real-world knowledge and common sense.

So next time you see an argument about the E word, think of this: Rather than simply celebrating the advance of strategy and more rigorous evaluation in philanthropy, or defending the primacy of instinct and practical wisdom, let us propose a third way. Broaden what you mean by evidence. Because no matter what issue or cause you care about, the more each source of evidence—research, informed opinion, field experience—points to the same path, the more confident we can all feel that we’re headed in the right direction.

Learn more about our broad definition of evidence at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy.